There are many aspects to the art and craft of cinematography. There is a technological component to it, of course, and that's something that we talk about frequently. However, most people agree that it's not the equipment that is used, but instead, how it is used that determines the efficacy of a given cinematographic piece. Of the many artistic facets of the craft, perhaps the least understood is composition. Many of our most coveted compositional techniques and theories come from history's greatest visual artists, and they are entirely fascinating and useful once understood. Unfortunately, learning about them can be about as interesting as watching paint dry. Luckily, the following video on composition is not only informative, but it's also, dare I say, entertaining.
First and foremost, it should be noted that this video focuses on the theories and techniques of creating contrast and using contrasting visual elements within the frame to draw the viewer's focus to the correct place. It focuses very little on some of the compositional techniques that we're taught in film school, like the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. More than anything, it's a tutorial that's largely geared towards graphic designers and motion graphics artists, but the information here can be directly applied to photography and cinematography composition.
So without any further ado, here's a 30 minute Division 05 masterclass in using contrasting visual elements to create compelling compositions:
Ultimately, there's a whole lot to learn about cinematography from this quirky tutorial, even if the tutorial itself isn't cinematography-specific. Like any type of visual artist, it is the cinematographer's job to control what the viewer sees in the frame and when they see it. Using contrasting visual elements to draw attention to various parts of the frame -- which is best done with lighting and by using compositional techniques such as leading lines -- is one of the most powerful tools at a cinematographer's disposal.
Additionally, it's important to note that film, like many of the other visual arts, is a two-dimensional medium that tricks the human eye into seeing three-dimensional space. Cinematographers can use the tools at their disposal (cameras and lighting) in order to further emphasize that concept and to create compositions with a tremendous amount of depth. Again, lighting is incredibly important when creating depth within a composition, and sculpting characters and objects with light is the name of the game when it comes to manufacturing cinematographic depth.
What are some of your tips and tricks for creating contrast and depth of composition? Let us know down in the comments!